For our readers in the Atlanta region, come on out this week to the U.S. Social Forum, where there will be tons of fair trade workshops, including some facilitated by Global Trade Watch's own David Edeli. Click here for the full list of trade workshops.
Also, read a statement from fair trade activists participating in the Forum calling for a new direction on trade policy after the jump.
As President Bush’s Fast Track Expires, Activists at the First U.S. Social Forum Say it’s Time for a New Direction
ATLANTA, GA — Campaigners from all over the U.S. and abroad at the first ever U.S. Social Forum marked the June 30 expiration of the Presidential Trade Promotion Authority, also known as Fast Track, with cautious optimism. The gathering brings together activists who are speaking out against the devastating consequences of trade agreements at many different levels.
"While we are happy to see the sunset of a law that has caused misery for people in the U.S. and around the world, we are troubled by signs that the U.S. position on trade agreements is unlikely to change," said Tom Loudon of the Alliance for Responsible Trade. "The four pending trade deals completed just before Bush’s authority expires will still get the ‘Fast Track’ voting treatment in Congress. The fixes made to get these deals through the Democratic controlled Congress do not sufficiently address the problems with the NAFTA model and must not be passed."
"As a network of U.S.-based grassroots groups invested in a global movement for social and economic justice we see the impacts of this ‘one-size-fits-all’ U.S. free trade agreement model every day,” said Michael Leon Guerrero of Grassroots Global Justice. “NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and now others are directly creating economic refugees, forcing them to migrate in search of a more sustainable living. All of us at the USSF are working toward making a better world by undoing the harm that these trade agreements have imposed and calling for a new direction in U.S. trade policy."
Speaking of the Costa Rican campaign to stop the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement in the only country that has not ratified the deal, Jorge Arguedas of APPEC, a telecommunications workers forum, referred to popular pressure to vote against the trade pact in a precedent-setting binding referendum scheduled for October. "The Government and the business sectors have all of the money and access to the media," he said. "[Yet] the people are organizing by going door to door, visiting people. We will stop the passage of CAFTA in Costa Rica."
Cutting off access to life saving medicines has been a consistent feature of the U.S. trade agreement model. “It is imperative that a government’s ability to break patent monopolies for essential medicines is preserved as a legitimate way to promote access to medicines for all,” said Wirat Purahong, Chairperson of the Thai Network of People with AIDS. “If a US-Thai FTA had been signed under fast track rules, this would be impossible.”
Other activists talked about the links between trade and migration. "The Immigrants Rights Movements join with others to denounce Fast Track and all so-called Free Trade Agreements," said Colin Rajah of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. "These trade policies go hand-in-hand with domestic immigration policies which are designed to control the flow of cheap, disposable labor to sustain and increase unprecedented profits for an elite few."
The Korea-U.S. free trade agreement is scheduled for last minute signing Saturday, June 30th before fast track expires. “The Korean and U.S. government will sign a death sentence for small farmers in Korea,” Said Sim Mun-Hee, General Secretary of the Korean Women Peasants’ Alliance. “We the 3.5 million Korean farmers stand in solidarity with those gathered at the US Social Forum. We will hold our own anti-FTA signing ceremony on Saturday to strengthen our collective resolve in our fight against corporate driven globalization.”